Monday, November 30, 2009

#204 Russ Snyder

#204 Russ Snyder
I always enjoy seeing the palm trees in the background of spring training photos. Right about now, I would desperately love to see some palm trees up close and personal. Maybe that has something to do with a miserable rainy Monday in November in the Mid-Atlantic. Ugh.

Fun facts about Russ Snyder:

-Born in Oak, NE, he signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1953.

-Despite a strong batting record at every stop in the minors (including an eye-popping .432 in 138 games in his first pro season at class D McAlester), Russ moldered in the stacked New York farm system for six seasons before he was mercifully dealt to the Athletics.

-Finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1959 even though he played in just 73 games. Hit .313 with a .367 on-base percentage in his first crack at American League pitching.

-After a sophomore slump, Snyder was sent to the Orioles in a six-player trade. Though he was a part-timer for much of his tenure in Charm City, he was a valuable role player, including batting averages of .305 in 1962 and .306 in 1966. He ranked third in the A.L. with 18 steals in 1963.

-On April 29, 1962, Russ achieved a rare feat by delivering two pinch-hits in one inning. Facing Kansas City, he batted for pitcher Wes Stock and led off the seventh inning with a game-tying home run. The O's batted around and tacked on four more runs, allowing Snyder to come to the plate again with two runners on base. He delivered an RBI single, putting the cap on a six-run rally.

-Capped his career-best 1966 season by appearing in Baltimore's four-game World Series sweep of the Dodgers. He reached base three times in eight trips to the plate and had and RBI single against Don Drysdale in Game One.

-Spent the last three years of his career with the White Sox, Indians, and Brewers before retiring in 1970. In a dozen seasons in the majors, he hit .271 with 150 doubles, 42 home runs, and 319 RBI.

-Hit his final home run off of future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter. In total, he took Hunter deep three times, tying his career high against any pitcher. He victimized another Cooperstown denizen (Jim Bunning) thrice, and also performed the feat against 215-game winner and three-time All Star Jim Perry.

-Other interesting tidbits: Frank Robinson once doubled, but was called out when baserunner Snyder passed him going the other way (he assumed the blast to the center field fence had been caught and was retreating); against the Senators, he once scored from second base on a flyout; and in 1966, he caught the final out of the game that allowed the Orioles to clinch their first pennant.

-Post-baseball, Russ went home to Nelson, NE and operated a tavern/steakhouse for a decade before working for the Government Soil Conversation Office.
#204 Russ Snyder (back)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

#199 Bob Heffner

#199 Bob Heffner
This weekend, we've got a Red Sox Daily Double. Bob Heffner appears to be standing in front of a yawning black abyss. That can't be good.

Fun facts about Bob Heffner:

-Born in Allentown, PA, Bob signed with the Red Sox as a teenager in 1957.

-After three years in the low minors, he went 16-9 with a 3.23 ERA in his first full season at class A Allentown.

-A year after leading the class A Eastern League with 234 strikeouts, Heffner finally got the call to Boston in 1963. He won his major league debut, a complete-game 9-2 decision over the Tigers.

-On June 28, 1963, he tied a major league record by recording three putouts at first base in one inning. Only two other pitchers have ever managed this feat.

-Had a serviceable first year, going 4-9 with a 4.26 ERA and finishing strong; his ERA in September was 3.41.

-Saw a lot of action in 1964, appearing in 55 games (45 in relief). Reached career highs in wins (seven), saves (six), and strikeouts (112) while fashioning a 4.08 ERA.

-Hit his only career home run on May 12, 1964 against Cleveland's Mudcat Grant.

-After a brutal 1965 campaign (7.16 ERA in 49 innings), was claimed by the Indians in the Rule 5 draft.

-Barely pitched in the majors after coming to the Tribe: five earned runs in 13 innings for Cleveland in 1966 and two earnies in eight innings for the Angels two years later.

-Ended his career at age 29 in 1968. In parts of five seasons he was 11-21 with a 4.51 ERA.
#199 Bob Heffner (back)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

#147 Dennis Bennett

#147 Dennis Bennett
I do believe that this may be the squintiest card in the entire 1965 Topps set. Maybe if Dennis had kept his cap on, the sun wouldn't be in his eyes so severely.
Fun facts about Dennis Bennett:

-Oakland-born Bennett played one year at Shasta County Junior College before signing with the Phillies in 1958.

-A hard-throwing lefty with a full complement of pitches, Dennis debuted with the Phils in 1962, going 9-9 with a 3.81 ERA and finishing second on the club with 149 strikeouts.

-Highlights of his rookie season included a four-hit, 11-strikeout shutout of the Dodgers for his first win and a streak of three consecutive complete-game wins in September.

-He was fortunate to survive a serious car accident the following winter in Puerto Rico, where he had been pitching. His winter team's owner suffered a fatal heart attack while driving, and Bennett went through the windshield. He suffered a shattered ankle, broken pelvis, and fLinkacial lacerations, as well as a cracked left shoulder blade that was undiagnosed for three years afterward.

-Incredibly, he was back on the mound by June of 1963 and pitched well, going 9-5 with a 2.64 ERA and being selected as Philadelphia's Most Courageous Athlete.

-On June 12, 1964, Dennis took the loss as the Mets knocked him out of the box early; however, it was a big day for his family. Brother Dave pitched the ninth inning for the Phils in what would be his only major league appearance. Dave's son (and Dennis' nephew) Erik Bennett would pitch for the Angels and Twins in 1995-1996.

-Like most of his teammates, Dennis started strong in 1964 (9-5 at midseason) before faltering down the stretch. His undiagnosed shoulder fracture developed a calcium deposit that caused him increasing pain, and he finished the season with a 12-14 record and 3.68 ERA.

-Traded to Boston before the 1965 season, he struggled with arm and shoulder pain and clashed with manager Dick Williams in a two-and-a-half season stint with the Red Sox (12-13, 3.96 ERA).

-Dennis finished his big league career with the Mets and Angels, appearing in his last MLB game in 1968 but pushing on in the minors through 1973. In seven seasons in the majors he was 43-47 with a 3.69 ERA and six saves.

-He currently resides in Klamath Falls, OR, where he opened the City Club bar in 1969. He's been married to wife Terry for nearly four decades and they have six sons and three daughters. For an informative article that includes several quotes from Dennis, click here.
#147 Dennis Bennett (back)

Friday, November 27, 2009

#11 1964 AL Strikeouts Leaders: Al Downing, Camilo Pascual, and Dean Chance

#11 AL Strikeout Leaders
Now that we're all doped up on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, let's take a peek at some more standout pitching performances from around the American League in 1964, whaddaya say?

The photographer seems to have surprised Al Downing; maybe he had just arrived from the future to foretell of Hank Aaron's 715th home run. In just his second full season, the 23-year-old Yankee led the loop with 217 strikeouts...and 120 walks. Both were career highs.

That looks like Camilo Pascual's Myspace photo; how's that for outdated-yet-before-its-time humor? Much to the Cuban righthander's chagrin, he fell just four K's short of leading the AL for the fourth straight season. His personal-best total came in 1961, when he whiffed 221 batters.

What a surprise - it's Dean Chance on a pitching leaders card! His 207 punchouts left him just shy of a pitching Triple Crown, as he topped the A.L. in wins (20) and ERA (1.65). He would top 200 K's twice more, including a high of 234 in 1968.

As an interesting side note, Sam McDowell was far and away the league leader in strikeouts per nine innings, with 9.2. Downing was #2 at 8.0. But "Sudden Sam" only tossed 173.1 innings in 1964, leaving him eighth in total whiffs at 178.
#11 AL Strikeout Leaders (back)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

#9 1964 AL Wins Leaders: Chance, Peters, Bunker, Pizarro, and Wickersham

#9 AL Wins Leaders
Happy Thanksgiving, folks! I'm thankful for this nifty card, one of a couple dozen that I received in a trade from Steve, a diehard Cubs fan who has a blog of his very own. Give it a look, why not?

The labeling on this card is pretty murky. On the front it just says, "Pitching Leaders". Way to narrow it down, Topps. The back gives the more specific (and delightfully quirky) "Victory Leaders". These men are victors! They exult in the lamentations of their conquered foes' women! Huzzah!

Whereas some of the league leaders cards feature multiple Hall of Famers in one fell swoop, not one of the five men pictured here has gotten the call to Cooperstown. Of the quintet, Juan Pizarro was the winningest over the course of his career with 131 W's. But in 1964, they were five of the finest pitchers in the American League. Let's break it down.

Dean Chance was the standard bearer with 20 wins and nine losses, as well as a miniscule 1.65 ERA. He was the runaway Cy Young Award winner, back when there was just one winner for all of MLB. Tying him in the win department was Gary Peters of the White Sox, who was followed closely by teammate Pizarro with 19. Also clocking in with one win for each of his 19 years was Rookie of the Year runner-up Wally Bunker, who's giving a Brady Bunch-esque sideways glance to Juan. Then there's Dave Wickersham, who also fell a game short of the big 2-0. Dave never topped a dozen wins in any other season, incidentally.

I love the detail that they put into the leaderboards in this set. Assuming that I can count this late at night, the top 54 winners in the A.L. are listed here. This may very well be the only time that Bob Heffner and John O'Donoghue were ever mentioned in the same space as Robin Roberts and Mickey Lolich. You'll also notice the misspelling of Jim Kaat's last name as "Katt", which recurs on his own card. No respect.
#9 AL Wins Leaders (back)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

#596 Don Landrum

#596 Don Landrum
This post wraps up another trade, so I'd like to once again toss a little thanks in the direction of Bob Bard and to remind you that you can find his want list here. Onward!

Fun facts about Don Landrum:

-Bob was from Santa Rosa, CA and signed with the Phillies in 1954 out of Mt. Diablo High School.

-It took him only four years to get from Class D Mattoon to AAA Miami, where he hit .294 to earn a late-season look in Philadelphia.

-The Phils sent Landrum back to the minors for three more seasons before trading him to St. Louis late in the 1960 campaign.

-He appeared in 41 games with the Cards between 1960-1961, but broke through as a semi-regular in 1962. Splitting the year between St. Louis and the Cubs, he hit a career-high .286 in 115 games. He also walked 34 times to boost his on-base percentage to .370, and stole 11 bases in 13 tries.

-After slumping to .242 the following year and spending much of 1964 at AAA Salt Lake City, Don bounced back in 1965. He hit only .226 but played in a career-high 131 games, allowing him to compile 20 doubles, six home runs, and 34 RBI.

-On August 19, 1965, he hit the only walkoff home run of his career, a two-out, two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Reds.

-A largely unproductive stint with the Giants (.186 in 72 games) ended his major league tenure the following year. In parts of eight seasons, he hit .234 with a .307 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, and 75 RBI.

-Don faced Hall of Famer Don Drysdale more than any other pitcher, and had surprising success. In 51 plate appearances he batted .302 and reached base at a .400 clip. He notched a double, triple, and home run (the first longball of his career) and drove in three runs against the Dodgers great!

-Landrum would return to California, where he managed an office furniture business. He passed away in January of 2003 at age 66.

-According to his obituary, he enjoyed playing pinochle, rooting for the Giants and 49ers, and collecting baseball cards. Sounds like a pretty cool guy to me.
#596 Don Landrum (back)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

#595 Don Lee

#595 Don Lee
This is one of the best looks we've had at the old "LA" insignia on the Angels' caps, back in the days when they actually did play in Los Angeles. It's a great-looking logo. I kind of like that the bottom of the "L" doesn't also serve as the middle bar of the "A". This distinguishes it from the Dodgers cap logo.

Fun facts about Don Lee:

-His father, Thornton Lee, pitched for the Indians, White Sox, and Giants from 1933 to 1948. He won 22 games and lead the A.L. with a 2.37 ERA and 30 complete games in 1941.

-Don grew up in Arizona (birthplace: Globe, AZ) and pitched at the University of Arizona before signing with the Tigers in 1956.
-Debuted with Detroit in 1957, but appeared in just 12 games over two seasons.

-After spending most of 1958 and all of 1959 in the minors, he changed teams twice in the offseason, being traded to the Braves and then drafted by the Senators.

-On September 2, 1960, Lee pitched a complete game against Boston, earning a 5-1 win. The only run he allowed came on a Ted Williams home run. Williams, who would retire weeks later, had also hit a home run against Lee's father as a rookie. The Splendid Splinter became the first player in history to homer against a father-son duo.

-After back-to-back solid years as a swingman (3.44 and 3.52 ERAs), he split 1962 between the Twins and Angels and had a career year. Starting 31 games, he reached personal highs in wins (11), complete games (5), and strikeouts (1.02). He also had a 3.46 ERA.

-All four of his career shutouts came in a two year span (1962-1963), highlighted by a three-hitter against the Twins on April 17, 1963. Between the fourth and ninth innings, the righthander retired fifteen batters in a row.

-1963 was a bit of a step back for Don (8-11, 3.68), but 1964 was better. In 89.1 innings - mostly in relief - he fashioned a 2.72 ERA and whiffed 73 batters.

-Elbow and knee woes shortened his career, as he struggled in limited appearances for the Angels, Astros, and Cubs over the last two years of his major league career.

-In parts of nine seasons, Lee went 40-44 with a 3.61 ERA and 11 saves.
#595 Don Lee (back)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

#578 Camilo Carreon

#578 Camilo Carreon
Strange but true*: Camilo Carreon had a terrible time keeping his hair styled during the humid Cleveland summers. As a result, he used pine tar instead of pomade.

*= may not actually be true

Fun facts about Camilo Carreon:

-A native of Colton, CA, Cam signed with the White Sox as a teenager in 1956.

-Was promoted to Chicago for cups of coffee in 1959 and 1960 before receiving regular playing time in 1961. Hit .271 with 4 home runs and 27 RBI as a rookie.

-His two-run single off of Whitey Ford on August 15, 1961 boosted the Pale Hose to a 2-1 win and halted the Yankee pitcher's 14-game winning streak.

-Given the starting catcher's job in 1962, Cam batted .256 with career highs in doubles (19) and RBI (37). He would hit .274 with 35 RBI the following year despite receiving 52 less plate appearances, and also led the American League in fielding percentage by a catcher.

-Torn tendons in his right arm abbreviated his 1964 season.

-Was traded to the Indians in a three-team deal (also involving the Athletics) in early 1965. The Tribe also reacquired Rocky Colavito in the swap.

-After playing sparingly that year, Carreon was sent to the Orioles in exchange for an untested youngster named Lou Piniella. He played only four games for the eventual World Champs.

-After spending the late 1960s toiling at AAA for the Orioles, Mets, and White Sox, Cam retired. In parts of eight big league seasons, he hit .264 with 11 home runs and 114 RBI.

-His son Mark was an outfielder/first baseman for the Mets, Tigers, Giants, and Indians from 1987-1996. He was a career .277 hitter.

-After baseball Cam worked for the Tucson, AZ department of parks and recreation and was also a golf course groundskeeper. Sadly, he passed away at age 50 in 1987 due to cirrhosis of the liver. Mark made his major league debut just six days after his dad's death.

#578 Camilo Carreon (back)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#557 Jose Santiago

#557 Jose Santiago
Before I even get to the body of this post, here's a BONUS! Fun Fact: this gentleman is one of three pitchers in MLB history named Jose Santiago. The first pitched for the Indians and Athletics from 1954-1956. Our guy is the second. The third took the mound for the Royals, Phillies, Indians, and Mets between 1997 and 2005.

Fun facts about Jose Santiago:

-Jose "Palillo" (Spanish for "toothpick", owing to his slight frame as a child) Santiago was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. He signed with the Kansas City Athletics as an amateur free agent in 1959.

-After posting his third straight minor league season with double-digit wins, he earned a late-season debut with the A's in 1963 and scooped up a relief win with a scoreless inning in his first outing.

-Pitching primarily out of the bullpen, he scuffled the next year in his first full season (0-6, 4.73 ERA).

-After tossing only five innings in 1965, Jose was sold to the Red Sox. He was slotted into the starting rotation and responded with a solid 3.66 ERA, seven complete games, and a career-high 119 strikeouts, but his won-lost record was a hard-luck 12-13. Still, he was chosen as the ninth-place Red Sox' Pitcher of the Year.

-Bumped to a swingman role in 1967, he came on strong for the American League champion BoSox, putting up a 12-4 record with five saves and a 3.59 ERA. He seemed to get stronger down the stretch, with a 5-0 record in September that included two straight victories against the second-place Tigers.

-In the 1967 World Series, Boston called on Santiago to start twice and relieve in one other game. Though he was charged with two losses, he battled in Game One, allowing only two runs in seven innings and providing his team's lone run with a solo homer against Hall of Famer and eventual Series MVP Bob Gibson. He became the only pitcher in World Series history to lose a game in which he hit a four-bagger.

-The righthander was having a career year in 1968 (9-4, 2.25 ERA, 7 CG, All-Star selection) when an elbow injury ended his season and shortened his career. He appeared in just 18 games over the next two seasons, allowing 16 earned runs in 19 innings.

-In parts of eight seasons, Jose was 34-29 with a 3.74 ERA. He completed 16 of his 65 starts.

-In 1979, he managed the Puerto Rico Boricuas in the ill-fated Inter-American League, a AAA loop that consisted of six teams in the U.S. and Latin America. The Boricuas were 16-39 before folding in June; shortly thereafter, the entire league went under just three months into its inaugural season.

-Jose still lives in Puerto Rico with his wife Edna; the couple met in Kansas City during his time with the A's. They have four sons, one of whom (Arnold) was an infielder in the Indians and Cubs organizations in the 1990s. has been active in baseball in his homeland for decades as a little league instructor and executive, broadcaster, general manager, and field manager.
#557 Jose Santiago (back)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

#501 Indians Rookies: Ralph Gagliano and Jim Rittwage

#501 Indians Rookies: Ralph Gagliano and Jim Rittwage
Hm, we haven't done a two-rookie card in a while. It's nice to see that Ralph Gagliano wore his softball uniform to the photo shoot. Meanwhile, Jim Rittwage is smirking at him. That's not very nice...

Fun facts about Ralph Gagliano:

-After graduating from Christian Brothers High in his hometown of Memphis, TN, Ralph was signed by the Indians in 1964.

-His brother Phil Gagliano was a utility player for the Cardinals, Red Sox, and Reds from 1963-1974.

-He struggled in his first pro season, hitting .226 at single-A Dubuque.

-Ralph became a true "cup-of-coffee" player, appearing in just one game with the Indians in September 1965 as a pinch runner. That was the sum total of his major league career: one game, no at-bats, no defensive plays.

-Ralph's minor league stat line is odd; he played for single-A Reno in 1966, hitting .243, then didn't reappear until 1970. In his second go-round at Reno, he hit .275. The following year, he was at AA Jacksonville, a club that was not affiliated with any big league organization. He batted .182 in 29 games, and apparently called it a career.

-If anyone has more information about Ralph, feel free to chip in, comments-wise.

Fun facts about Jim Rittwage:

-Jim was a hometown Cleveland boy, and the Tribe signed him at age 19 during the 1964 season.

-After his first pro season, he was claimed on waivers by the Athletics. A year later, Cleveland reacquired him in a four-player deal; one of the players sent to Kansas City was future star Joe Rudi.

-He had a gradual progression through the minors, with his best effort coming in 1968: 5-9 with a 2.33 ERA as a swingman at AA Waterbury.

-In his seventh pro season, Rittwage was called to Cleveland. The 25-year-old pitched in eight games with a 4.15 ERA, as his control abandoned him (21 walks and 16 strikeouts in 26 innings).

-Earned his lone major league win on September 19, 1970, allowing two runs on six hits in a complete-game victory over the Orioles. He outdueled 23-game-winner Dave McNally in that contest, and struck out Brooks Robinson with the bases loaded to end the game!

-He did not allow a home run in his brief MLB career.

-Continued to tour AAA from 1971-1974 (Wichita, Portland, Oklahoma City, Tulsa), but struggled in all four seasons before hanging up his spikes at age 29.

-Again, that's all she wrote. I usually like to have ten tidbits per player, but both of these guys had pretty brief careers!
#501 Indians Rookies: Ralph Gagliano and Jim Rittwage (back)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

#490 Earl Battey

#490 Earl Battey
You'd be hard pressed to find a baseball player with a more fitting name that Earl Battey. It's certainly more encouraging than unfortunately-named pitchers like Julio Manon and Grant Balfour.

Fun facts about Earl Battey:

-Born in Los Angeles, CA, Earl signed with the White Sox fresh out of high school in 1953.

-He debuted with Chicago in 1955, but played sparingly for five seasons as a backup to catcher Sherm Lollar.

-A blockbuster trade in 1960 sent Battey, rookie slugger Don Mincher, and $150,000 to the Senators in exchange for All-Star outfielder Roy Sievers.

-He thrived in his only season in Washington, winning the first of three straight Gold Gloves and hitting .270 with 15 home runs, 60 RBI, and a career-high 24 doubles. He was known for his strong throwing arm, and would pick 13 runners off of the bases in 1963.

-Following the club's move to Minnesota, Earl became a fan favorite, hitting .302 with 17 home runs in his first year representing the Twin Cities.

-Beginning in 1962, he was selected as an All-Star four out of five seasons. His performance peaked in 1963 with a .285 average, 26 home runs, and 84 RBI.

-In 1965, with Minnesota hosting the All-Star Game, Battey received the most votes of any American League player for the Midsummer Classic.

-He started all seven games of the World Series that fall, but was hampered by an accident in Game Three. He ran into a crossbar while chasing a foul popup and injured his throat to the extent that he had trouble turning his head or speaking. Naturally, he struggled against Dodgers pitching, hitting safely three times in 25 at-bats (.120).

-Earl declined suddenly, hitting .165 in 48 games in 1967 and receiving his release from the Twins that November at age 32. For his career, he hit .270 in parts of 13 seasons with 104 home runs and 449 RBI. In 2000, he was honored as the catcher on the Twins' 40th-anniversary team.

-After his playing career ended, he mentored troubled young boys in New York City before honoring a promise to his mother and earning a college degree (summa cum laude) from Bethune Cookman University in Florida. After graduating, he coached baseball and taught high school. In 2003, he succumbed to cancer at age 68.
#490 Earl Battey (back)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#464 Ron Piche

#464 Ron Piche
If you're especially sharp-eyed, you should be able to see that Ron Piche is wearing a Braves jersey. Topps got a little sloppy with their photo cropping, it seems.

Fun facts about Ron Piche:

-Hailing from Verdun in the Canadian province of Quebec, Ron signed with the Braves in 1955.

-Steadily climbed the minor-league ladder, posting double digits in wins in each of his first four years and compiling earned run averages under 3.00 at every stop.

-Debuted in Milwaukee in 1960, appearing in 37 games (all in relief) and pitching to a 3.56 ERA. His nine saves were one off of the team lead.

-Spent significant portions of the 1961 and 1962 seasons in his native Canada. Unfortunately, he was there on business, pitching for the Braves' AAA teams in Vancouver and Toronto. He was more than up to the challenge, going a combined 23-11.

-Returned to the majors for a full year in 1963 and was again an effective reliever, with a 3.40 ERA.

-Made the most of a full season at AAA Toronto in 1964, leading the International League in win percentage (14-3, .824) and putting up a 2.98 ERA.

-Was traded to the Angels in 1965, but suffered his worst season, with a 6.86 ERA in just 14 games.

-Bounced around several other organizations (Twins, Cardinals, Cubs, Expos) during the final five years of his career, with a 20-game stint in St. Louis in 1966 (4.26 ERA, 2 SV) serving as his last exposure to big league batters. In six major league seasons, Ron was 10-16 with a 4.19 ERA and 12 saves.

-Bill Mazeroski had his number. Not known for his power, the slick-fielding Pirates second baseman hit four home runs in 14 career at-bats against Piche, racking up a 1.214 slugging percentage!

-He coached for the Expos' big league club in 1976, but also spent many years with the organization as a minor league instructor and a community relations man.
#464 Ron Piche (back)

Monday, November 09, 2009

#451 Jim Owens

#451 Jim Owens
Wow, it looks like someone used this card to sand down their banister. You'll also notice the scotch tape on the top and bottom of the card. What did Jim Owens ever do to you, previous card owner?

Fun facts about Jim Owens:

-Jim, nicknamed "Bear", was born in Gifford, PA. The Phillies signed him out of nearby Bradford High School in 1951.

-Had brief stints in the majors in 1955 and 1956, but was hit hard.

-Missed most of the 1957 and 1958 seasons due to military service, but did earn his first career win by holding the Braves to two runs on four hits in seven innings on September 23, 1958. He kept Hank Aaron off the bases in four at-bats!

-His first full season (1959) was his best, as he went 12-12 with a 3.21 ERA and 11 complete games.

-Tossed his only career shutout on September 4, 1959, allowing only two Pirates into scoring position all day.

-Put together three straight miserable seasons in Philadelphia (1960-1962: 11-28, 5.13 ERA) before being dealt to Cincinnati for Cookie Rojas.

-The only noteworthy development in his sole season with the Reds came on April 24, 1963. Jim had the dubious honor of setting a record with three balks in one inning. Of course, Bob Shaw of the Braves let him off the hook later that year with a five-balk performance!

-The Astros claimed Owens in the Rule V draft that offseason, and he rebuilt his career as a go-to reliever, posting identical 3.28 earned run averages in 1964 and 1965 and compiling 14 wins and 14 saves.

-Retired in mid-1967, having gone 42-68 with 21 saves and a 4.31 ERA in parts of 12 seasons.

-Immediately after retiring, he served as the Astros' pitching coach, 1967-1972.
#451 Jim Owens (back)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

#313 Jimmie Schaffer

#313 Jimmie Schaffer
Do you remember when Ken Griffey, Jr. started wearing his baseball cap backwards in the early '90s and the guardians of the sport lost their minds? You really have to wonder what all of the fuss was about, especially since catchers had already been doing it for decades.

Fun facts about Jimmie Schaffer:

-Born in Limeport, PA, Jimmie signed with the Cardinals as a teenager in 1955.

-Finally got promoted to St. Louis in his seventh professional season, and singled in his first career at-bat against Chicago's Dick Ellsworth.

-Hit .255 as a rookie, and his 153 at-bats would prove to be a career high.

-After an offseason six-man trade sent him to the Cubs, Schaffer hit 7 of his 11 career home runs in 1963. He victimized his former team three times, and also went deep against Hall of Famer Warren Spahn!

-A broken hand in 1964 hastened the end of his time as a role player; he hit .205 and was traded across town to the White Sox the following winter.

-Jimmie saw action in only 55 games for four major league teams in the final four years of his career (1965-1968), hitting .154 for the White Sox, Mets, Phillies, and Reds.

-His 128 career hits are tied for ninth-most among players born on April 5. The top three are early 1900s Yankee Wid Conroy (1257), ex-Pirates 2nd baseman Rennie Stennett (1239), and former ChiSox teammate Ron Hansen (1007).

-In parts of eight big league seasons, he hit .223 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI. He would continue playing in the minors through the 1970 season.

-After spending 1970 as a player for Baltimore's AAA Rochester club, Jimmie became a manager in the Orioles' organization the following year. He led the Bluefield Orioles to a league championship. He stayed in the farm system through 1977, adding another championship to his resume with the 1973 Lodi Lions. Later, he would manage Texas' farm club in Tulsa (1979) and Baltimore's farm club in Hagerstown (1989).

-Coached in the majors for the Rangers (1978) and Royals (1980-1988), receiving a World Series ring for his work with the 1985 champs.
#313 Jimmie Schaffer (back)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

#310 Johnny Callison

#310 Johnny Callison
What do you think Johnny Callison is looking at? Wacky biplane? Runaway streaker? Flock of seagulls? My money is on Dick Allen on a unicycle.

Fun facts about Johnny Callison:

-A product of Qualls, OK, Johnny signed with the White Sox out of high school in 1957.

-Shot through the minors, hitting .340 with 17 homers and 31 steals at Class A Bakersfield in his first pro season before leading the AAA American Association with 29 home runs as a second-year player. At the end of the 1958 season, he made his major league debut at age 19 and hit .297 in 18 games.

-Struggled in limited major league exposure in 1959 and was traded to the Phillies in the ensuing offseason.

-After solid efforts in his first two years in Philadelphia, Callison became an All-Star in 1962, hitting a career-high .300 with 107 runs scored, 23 home runs, 83 RBI and a league-leading 10 triples.

-73 extra-base hits contributed to a career-best 140 OPS+ in 1963, but it was the only season in a four-year span (1962-1965) that he was not selected for the Midsummer Classic. He also hit for the cycle against the Pirates on June 27.

-As the Phillies made an unsuccessful push for the pennant in 1964, Johnny was a driving force. He drove in a personal-high 104 runs with his usual power (30 2B, 10 3B, 31 HR) and was second to St. Louis' Ken Boyer in MVP balloting. He also earned the All-Star Game MVP with a game-winning three-run homer off of Red Sox closer Dick Radatz.

-His average dropped for the third straight year in 1965 (down to .262), but his extra-base tendencies kept him productive (league-leading 16 3B and a career-high 32 HR to go with 101 RBI). Oddly enough, his home run swing tailed off the next year (11 HR), but he topped the National League with 40 doubles.

-After a decade as a fan favorite in Philly, Johnny was traded to the Cubs for three players in November of 1969. The 1970 season would be his last as a full-time starter, and he belted 19 round-trippers and drove in 68 runs. His .348 on-base percentage was his highest since 1962.

-Finished his career with the Yankees (1972-1973), retiring with a .264 average in parts of 16 seasons. Hit 226 homers and drove in 840 runs. Currently ranks tenth in Phillies history in total bases (2426) and home runs (185), eighth in extra-base hits (534), and sixth in triples (84).

-Passed away in 2006 at age 67.
#310 Johnny Callison (back)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

#234 Chicago White Sox Team Card

#234 Chicago White Sox Team Card
Did you miss me? I can't make promises, but I'll try not to fall ill or to get distracted by my sister's wedding and/or weeklong training courses in D.C. Luckily, the latter two events were one-time occasions, so I'm going to get back on the horse with this very colorful team card. Peep those black, white, and red stirrups! It looks like the White Sox were trying to lay claim to the Red Sox as well.

The Al Lopez-managed White Sox finished close, but no cigar in 1964. 98 wins and 64 losses was good for second place, a game shy of the American League Champion Yankees. The Pale Hose spent 39 days in first place while jousting with New York and Baltimore, but couldn't keep pace down the stretch. The faithful fans on the South Side of Chicago packed Comiskey Park 1,250,053 strong, good for the second-highest attendance in the A.L.

The Sox were a middling offensive team, placing sixth in the league with a .247 average and seventh with 642 runs (3.96 per game). However, their patience was a virtue, as they topped the loop with 562 walks. The big producer was third baseman Pete Ward (.282, 23 HR, 94 RBI), though shortstop Ron Hansen (.261, 20 HR, 68 RBI) and right fielder Floyd Robinson (.301, 11 HR, 59 RBI) also contributed to the attack.

Pitching was the driving force in Chicago's success, with the Pale Hose hurlers relying on control (league-best 401 walks allowed) in allowing an A.L.-low 501 runs (3.09 per game). The team ERA was 2.72, with All-Stars Gary Peters (20-8, 2.50 ERA) and Juan Pizarro (19-9, 2.56) comprising a fierce 1-2 punch in the starting rotation. Joe Horlen (13-9, 1.88) and John Buzhardt (10-8, 2.98) rounded out the top four. 41-year-old closer Hoyt Wilhelm baffled batters with his knuckleball (12-9, 1.99, 27 saves).

The 1964 season was the midpoint of a heartbreaking three-year run in which the White Sox average 95.6 wins a year, but earned three second-place finishes. After a World Series appearance in 1959, the former "Go-Go Sox" were unable to maintain momentum. They slid into irrelevance in the second half of the 1960s and would not reach the postseason again until 1983.

#234 Chicago White Sox Team Card (back)